Knit stitches that look like check-marks? It’s not your fault.

Frequently I hear from knitters concerned about the appearance of their stockinette stitches. “Stitches are supposed to look like ‘Vs’. Mine look like check marks. What am I doing wrong?” they ask.

Nothing. You’re doing nothing wrong. Really! Let’s figure out why this happens.

Yarns are available in S-twist and Z-twist. Most of our commercially available yarns are S-twist yarn. If you closely examine a strand of yarn, and hold it straight up and down like this |, you notice the twist creates a slanted line in the yarn. You see either a backward slant as found in the letter “S” or a forward slant as found in the letter “Z”.

Let’s look at some S-twist yarns and swatches first. Hold a strand of that yarn askew to mimic the right leg of a knit stitch like this / and observe what happens to the twist. Those slashes line up almost straight up and down. See it? Now hold that yarn askew to mimic the left leg of a knit stitch like this \ and observe what happens to the twist. You see a more exaggerated backward slant. Imagine stacking them, and you can begin to understand the appearance of columns of knit stitches, and why the left and right legs appear different from each other.

Let’s observe this in a few different yarns.

Cascade 220


The first example above is Cascade 220. This wool yarn is an S-twist yarn made of four Z-twist plies. The ply is somewhat relaxed. The left and right legs of the stitches look quite similar. You can see the left legs stack on top of each other looking a little bit like a pole.

Primo Worsted


Above is The Plucky Knitter Primo Worsted. This merino wool/cashmere/nylon blend is also an S-twist yarn made of four Z-twist plies, but it has a tighter twist to it. The right legs of these stitches lean to the right as you’d expect. The left legs actually lean off to the left as well, but they appear not to do so, simply because of the twist. The stack of left legs look like a pole, even more so than the Cascade 220.



This “pole” effect is even more accentuated in yarn with numerous plies. The Berroco Floret above is a blend of acrylic and cotton. This S-twist yarn is made from five Z-twist plies, and each of those Z-twist plies is in turn made of two S-twist plies. Wow! That’s alotta plies.

Creative Focus Bulky


Now let’s look at a couple of Z-twist yarns. First up is Rowan Creative Focus Bulky, a loose, single ply Z-twist yarn in a wool/alpaca blend. Notice that in this case the “pole” effect occurs on the right legs of the stitches. Interesting, isn’t it?

Silk Garden


At first glance this Noro Silk Garden yarn looks like single ply, but on closer examination it is a loose Z-twist yarn made from two loose S-twist plies. Can you find the slight “pole” effect again on the right legs?



Finally we have yarn that is neither S nor Z. This is Rowan’s Lima. This yarn is a crocheted chain of very fine alpaca. Its left and right legs looks nearly identical because there is not any twist to the yarn.

Hopefully this clears up a mystery for you. The next time you peruse a knitting magazine or observe your own hand-knits, notice how different yarns behave differently. Accept this as a feature of the yarn and make your yarn selections appropriately. Mostly, accept that there is nothing wrong.

they’ve made an impression

It’s been fun this week. On facebook many of my knitting friends are listing the ten knitting books that have left a lasting impression. One friend went another direction and listed people who have left a lasting impression.

It got me thinking, or more precisely, fondly remembering a bunch of folks in my personal knitting history who have left a long-lasting impression. These three were students that taught me a lot.

Persistent Curiosity:

Trudy was ninety when she wandered into the yarn shop to inquire about this new-fangled way to knit socks on a circular needle. Over the course of a day of patiently waiting for instruction while we also helped others, she learned to make two-at-a-time socks on one long circular using the magic loop method and working them toe-up starting with Judy’s magic cast on. I can remember the thrill in her voice when she said,”I haven’t learned anything new in twenty years!” I do hope she just meant that in regards to her knitting. Still, here’s to never stop learning new stuff!

Perfecting a Craft:

June 21, 2006 was Rowan O’Dougherty’s knitting birthday. (Real name, I don’t think he’ll mind.) He was looking around at the yarn, so I asked him if he knitted or crocheted. He explained that he did neither, but he sewed. And, as intriguing as it was to make something three-dimensional out of two-dimensional fabric, how much more interesting might it be to make something three-dimensional starting with just one-dimensional yarn. He wondered. I sat him down.

What an opportunity that was that he was willing to learn right then and there! He has devoured many books since then, achieved the Master Knitter level from the Craft Yarn Council, and had designs published in Cast On Magazine.

Those interested can read more about Rowan here:

What handicap?

To the veteran with a left arm extending only to the elbow taking a class that used 60″ long circular needles size US 15 needle, doing magic-loop and magic cast on using two strands of bulky held together: When I noticed you in that big class I was trying to figure out what special accommodation I would need to come up with to help you. The answer was quickly apparent. None. None at all.